The new dishes at Smoke House Deli

When an invitation landed in my inbox a couple of weeks ago, to a special Chef’s Table at Smoke House Deli where they would be showcasing dishes off their new menu, I paused a moment. The memory of the last such new menu party at SHD was still fresh in my mind – where had the two years since that event, flown by?! Prepared for an afternoon of food and drink, I thus presented myself at the SHD on Lavelle Road, and awaited Chef Saurabh Arora’s line-up from the 35 new dishes on the menu. Seated in the courtyard section outdoors, we were a big group, which turned out to be rather useful when it came to sharing all that food!

Our afternoon began with a specially-made-for-us, off menu cocktail of Martini Rosso, orange juice and bitters, which had a sweet and smooth finish and potency too. The first appetizer was Crunchy Mozzarella Fritters, cheese on the inside surrounded by a noodle-like crunchy exterior – tasted cheesy (in a good way) and was not overpowering in flavor, making it a go-to with any drink. I also enjoyed the Prawn Fritters + Spiced Mayo, which managed to keep their crispiness and crunchiness in terms of both the batter cover and the prawns within. Not so much to my taste was the Panko Crusted Kashmiri Chilli + Cottage Cheese, Corn Flat Bread – too mushy in texture. The standout of the appetizer course was definitely the Smoked Black Pepper Chicken, skewers of juicy and well-marinated chicken with a kick from the pepper.

The SHD Tomato + Bocconcini Salad, Queen Olives, Pesto Vinaigrette is a great addition to the new menu, especially for olive lovers. The Spanish Queen Olives are almost the size of a fruit with less pungency than the usual green olives. There was Boccocini – egg-sized Mozzarella – as well as crisp greens and I will definitely be ordering this on my next visit. I contented myself with just a couple of spoons of the Roasted Sweet Corn Soup + Sour Cream; Truffle Oil because I wanted to keep space for the pasta and mains that were coming up, especially since there were two Risottos to sample. I love me some Risotto, and neither the Pepper Crusted Chicken + Rosemary nor the Slow Roasted Cauliflower + Mascarpone disappointed. However, it was the Potato Gnocchi + 3 Cheese Sauce, Roasted Vegetables that delivered the knockout punch of the course. Three cheeses, Parmesan, English Cheddar, and Emmental were pressed into service, and cheese crisps on top completed the serving. Am quite happy to be vegetarian when presented with such a dish!

Of the five mains served, I literally took a single bite of each, and then dug into the Half Roast Rosemary Chicken, Wild Mushroom AOP as that was my favorite. With some lettuce on the side and delicious mushrooms and a poached egg that added depth to the already lovely flavors of the dish, I would happily have licked the wooden bowl in came in, clean. Slow Braised Belgian Pork Spare Ribs + Apple Slaw and Pan Grilled Fresh Bhetki + Jalapeno Corn Sauce were the other two non-veg offerings – and the Bhetki sure had fans at the table, but it’s just too strong a fish for my palate. The two veg offerings didn’t make much of an impression: Three way Polenta cake + Bean & Chickpeas Stew, and Roasted Vegetables + Red Cheddar Melt. Utilizing different alcohols infused in-house (with Dill, Kaffir Lime, Star Anise – respectively), the three cocktails from the new menu we enjoyed went well with our food. Sadly, I don’t have the names on hand, but the Kaffir Lime infused one was the definite winner of the three!

img_20170128_135524_hdr

SHD is known for its mouth-watering desserts, and this time was no exception. We loved three of the four we ate, and the other (Lemon Tart + Orange Mascarpone Cream) just needed some tweaking so that the lemon and citrus flavors came out, as we told Chef. Milk Cake + Toasted Hazelnuts looked gorgeous and tasted so too – in fact it was a toss-up between this and the White Chocolate + Lemon Molten Cake, the latter had spot on lemony goodness that literally oozed out of the cake once it was cut. The Prune Crumble Tart + Dark Chocolate Mousse was rich and I stopped after a couple of bites, mostly because the Lemon Molten Cake was beckoning! I’ll be heading back to SHD soon to enjoy my favorites from the new menu…maybe the salad and then dessert to maintain some “balance”!

Details: Smoke House Deli, Lavelle Road & Indiranagar; INR 2000 plus taxes for two with drinks.

Advertisements

Le Cirque Signature Experience

October was a tumultuous month for me (resulting in zero blog posts, I should admit), with the bright spots being far and few between. And the dinner I was part of at Le Cirque Signature, Leela Palace Bangalore, was definitely one of those high notes of the month. The original Le Cirque has been around since 1974 – I grew up reading novels where meals and rendezvous would be set up at the iconic NYC establishment, known for its exquisite take on French and Italian cuisine. Over the years, Le Cirque in NYC has changed locations, and set up additional restaurants as well. For the past couple of years, select Leela Palace Hotels in India too, have become home to the Le Cirque brand. Part of a series of dinners hosted to showcase Le Cirque specialties and signature dishes, the dinner I attended last month at The Leela Palace Bangalore, was elegant and delightful, supported by good wine.

The amuse bouche that started us off was of mozzarella cheese atop a halved artichoke, served with artichoke puree and black truffle oil. This really set the tone of things to come – elegance, simplicity, and fantastic, flavorful food all the way! The salad course was one of the restaurant’s signatures, the eponymous Le Cirque Salad, a mix of arugula, lollo rosso, segmented orange, berries, mint, beets, figs, celery, carrot, toasted sunflower seeds, lemon and oregano dressing – citrusy and light, with a lot of crunch and freshness. Corn Soup was next, with a choice of shrimp or Brie fritters – I ended up with the latter, and while the soup itself was lovely (a bit sweet and with some interesting texture thanks to the bits of tomato and the thick but smooth liquid), I think the shrimp did a lot more in terms of flavor than the fried cheese.

le-crique-salad

The Le Cirque Salad

I was most excited about the next dish on our menu – Risotto! This is one of my all-time favorite foods to eat – it is comfort food and fine dining rolled into one. And when its a black truffle risotto, well then that makes it all the more mouthwatering! Vialone nano rice, black truffle pesto and shavings, topped with burrata cheese – the reverence that such a dish calls for was established by the silence as I smelled and then tasted and then wiped clean the plate in front of me.

img_20161018_213754

Black Truffle Risotto

Pasta Primavera is not just a Le Cirque signature dish, it was created by Chef Sirio Macccioni and presented at Le Cirque in the mid 70s and became one of the restaurant’s most famous and talked about offerings, remaining even to date, a much in demand item even though it’s not on the menu anymore. It’s one of those seemingly simple pasta preps, with butter and cream, fresh veggies, and spaghetti. It is in fact, the kind of pasta dish that authentic Italian is famous for, where a smattering of ingredients come together to transport the diner to a different plane!

spaghetti-primavera

The Pasta Primavera

A palate cleansing sorbet of Limoncello with candied lemon came as a break before the main courses arrived, and for any lemon and tart flavor lover, this was a moment of happiness – strong lemon flavor that made one’s mouth pucker. I had chosen the Chicken Diable for my main course, among the options of that, the vegetarian Trio of Parmigiana, and the pescatarian Paupiette. The Paupiette was a pastry of Halibut, potato crust, stewed leek, and Rocca di Frassinello red wine sauce and won much favor at the table. For me however, the chicken was the perfect choice. Again, that perfect mix of haute cuisine and comfort food, it was pan seared chicken breast, Dijon mustard sauce, morel mushrooms, potatoes, shallots, and chicken jus. And oh, what a jus – that gravy on top was just incredible and really upped the delicious quotient of that chicken!

 

img_20161018_225552

Chicken Diable

paupiette

Paupiette

However, believe it or not, the piece de resistance was still to come, in the form of the dessert served – Crème Brûlée. I have eaten a couple great, some good Crème Brûlées, and many a mediocre one in my life, but this one was second to none. Served in an individual dish, it was a good portion and we all expected to be unable to finish it seeing as we were already sated from all that had come before. But when one is presented with greatness, one must give it the respect it commands, and in this case, that meant cracking into that beautifully caramelized top layer and scooping up every bite of the creamy center (which had black dots denoting its real vanilla bean heritage) and scraping the bottom of the dish. And then what did I spy? A recipe for this Queen of Crème Brûlées! A nice touch, though I daresay there are enough like me who would be too intimidated to try recreating it!

img_20161018_231724

Heaven!

A meal at Le Cirque goes into the category of experiential dining, rather than satisfying one’s hunger. It is, as is to be expected, also an expensive place to dine – but that really should not stop you! When you have something to celebrate, be it a promotion, special birthday or anniversary, this is where you should plan on satiating your senses…

Details: Le Cirque, The Leela Palace Bangalore; INR 7000 plus taxes for two people